Lured by promise of loans, increase in ration limit – Adivasis fooled into signing bail bonds for hardened criminals
Six Palghar villagers reveal how they were tricked into standing surety for a robbery accused and six Kashmiris in an Arms case
A sleepy village of Jogulwadi in Palghar district, around 140 km from Mumbai, can answer some of the ques tions raised by the disappearance of Sajjad Moghul, convicted of murdering lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha.Mumbai Mirror has unearthed a `surety scam’ in this village of less than 5,000 people, wherein gullible residents are tricked into standing surety for complete strangers, in cases ranging from robbery to illegal arms possession.

This newspaper came across six people from Jogulwadi alone ­ the scam is purportedly spread across several such villages all across the state ­ who were lured into the trap by two people from the village itself ­ a man and a woman ­ who are being questioned by the police.

One of villagers, a 55-year-old man named Bhima Sarakte, was himself arrested for forgery and spent six months in jail after it emerged that his documents were used in the bail application of a man accused for robbery.

The other five could also face arrest if it is discovered that the accused they had stood surety for are absconding.

Sarakte claims he had provided the documents to a man named Aslam Pathan, who ran a shop in the village and who promised to help him get a Rs 55,000 loan. Pathan was helped in this scam by a woman named Anusuya Dhonde, who has been residing in Jogulwadi for the last five years, the villagers said.

Sarakte’s arrest spread panic in the village, after it emerged that the documents of the other five were used to secure bail of six men from Rajouri district in Kashmir, who were arrested by the Maharashtra police in an arms case. All of them were granted bail in 2014, and the cops are probing whether they have absconded.

“I was told by the police that I had stood surety for a man named Babu Abdul Haq Khan, who was arrested in December 2014 for a robbery in Mumbai,“ said Sarakte, who was arrested in January this year, and released on bail on June 8.

“One day, the cops landed outside my shanty and said the bail plea of the man I had stood surety for had been rejected as the documents provided by me were fake. I had no idea what they were talking about, till I was arrested,“ he said.

After Sarakte’s arrest, other villagers, identified as Suresh Patil, Shashikant Gavari, Gangaram Tate, Vitthal Gavari and Pandurang Jadhav, approached the police saying they too had provided documents to Pathan and Dhonde, following which a probe revealed that those documents were used to secure bail for Kashmir residents Shafique Khan, Fazail Khan, Majid Khan, Mazhar Khan, Ashfaque Khan, and Shakeel Shaikh, all of whom were arrested in an Arms Act case. “Anusuya approached me saying she needed my help as one of her family members was arrested in a fake case. She asked me to carry my Aadhar Card and the ration card. I’m illiterate, and was made to stand outside the courtroom. I have no idea what happened inside,“ Tate said.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Pradeep Jadhav said that the six villagers have told the police that they were promised loans and an increase in ration limit in lieu of their help.

“Pathan has claimed that he was acting on behalf of a Mumbai-based lawyer. We will question the lawyer,“ DCP Jadhav said.

A team from the state AntiTerrorism Squad also questioned the six villagers last week. “Prima facie, it appears that gullible villagers are being used to secure bails. We will investigate with the help of the local police,“ an ATS source said.